Updated at 12:52 p.m.
A now-disbarred Washington lawyer and former D.C. Council candidate, Deairich Hunter, pleaded guilty this week in federal court to stealing more than $109,000 in funds intended for his clients.
At a plea hearing January 23 before U.S. District Judge Beryl Howell, Hunter, a former solo practitioner, admitted to keeping thousands of dollars in settlements for clients in disability and personal injury cases. In at least one instance cited in court filings, he stole funds that he was supposed to use to pay the medical bills of a client injured in a car accident.
Hunter is scheduled for sentencing before Howell on April 26. He was released on personal recognizance until the hearing, and was ordered to stay in the Washington area and surrender his passport.
According to the plea agreement (PDF), prosecutors intend to recommend a sentencing guideline between 12 to 18 months; the maximum possible sentence is 10 years in prison. Hunter also agreed to fully pay back his clients.
Hunter's attorney, Danny Onorato of Washington's Schertler & Onorato, declined to comment. A spokesman for the U.S. attorney's office, William Miller, also declined to comment.
According to the statement of offense (PDF) filed by prosecutors, Hunter represented clients in disability and personal injury cases between 2003 and 2009. His clients agreed that Hunter would keep one-third of settlement funds and Hunter agreed to notify them about any possible settlement or other developments of note in their cases. Prosecutors alleged that Hunter settled claims without notifying his clients and then kept the proceeds.
The District of Columbia Court of Appeals disbarred Hunter, with his consent, in April 2009. He was disbarred in Maryland in November 2009.
At the time of his disbarment, Hunter told Legal Times that the allegations of criminal activity lodged against him by the D.C. Office of Bar Counsel were "untrue." He had unsuccessfully run as an independent for an at-large seat on the D.C. Council the previous year.